Prohibition of Child Labour in India

India prohibits child labour

The laws in India prohibit employment of children in labour, provides for punishment for any violation but do not altogether disallow their employment.

Certain forms of work done by children like running a family business or performing as a child artist, etc. are allowed under certain conditions.

The law on child labour in India

The laws that prohibit child labour in India are the following: –

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986: The act, as amended in 2016, prohibits the engagement of children in certain employments and regulates conditions of their work in some areas of employment.

It prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, in 2008 and in 2016.

The Factories Act, 1948: The law prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The rules framed as per the law prescribes the conditions under which adolescents aged between 14–18 years be employed in any factory.

The Mines Act, 1952: The law prohibits employment of children below 18 years of age in the mine as being a dangerous place to work.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2015: The law treats it as an offence to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage. The law provides for punishment to those who violates the law in regard to child labour.

Right to education for children below 14

The Article 21 (A) of the Indian Constitution provides for free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right.

Later the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was passed to provide elementary education to all children in the age group. The Government and local authorities have the obligation to provide and ensure admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.

Laws on child classifies child into two categories

The laws in India, classifies children up to the age of 18 into two categories: one is children below 14 years, and the other is adolescents between 14-18 years.

Child below 14: A child below the age of 14 should not be allowed to work in any labour, except those that are permitted by law.

A child below the age of 14 (and adolescents) are allowed to work in a family business to support the family, but only after school hours and during vacations.

A family business is any work or business which is done or run by the members of the family. The business could belong to or be run by an immediate family which includes mother, father, brother or sister, or the extended family which includes father’s sister and brother, or mother’s sister and brother.

The guidelines to be followed under the child labour law in India for employing a child in a family business are:

  1. The child can only work in a family enterprise to help his or her own family and only work for the family.
  2. The child cannot be given work during school hours and between 7 pm and 8 am.
  3. The child cannot be engaged in tasks which may severely affect his education or homework or extra-curricular activity assigned to him or her.
  4. The child cannot be engaged in continuous tasks without rest which would make him or her tired. It is important to provide care and support for the child by providing breaks to refresh his health and mind. That is why the law states that the child should not work continuously for more than 3 hours.

However, children are prevented from performing in circuses or on the street for money. In cases of artistic performances which do not fall under the categories given above, children can seek permission from the State Government and participate in such shows, under the directions of their parents.

Adolescents between 14 & 18: For adolescents between the ages of 14-18, the laws strictly prohibit them from working in a particular list of non-industrial and industrial processes, such as mines or places which use inflammable substances or explosives, firework shops, slaughter houses, food processing industry, etc.

The Schedule given under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, as amended in 2016, includes the list of occupations & processes prohibited.

The punishment for child labour

Any person who employs a child or an adolescent in any illegal labour work will be punished, under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, as follows:

The punishment for employing a child is imprisonment between six months and two years and/or a fine between Rs. 20,000/ and Rs. 50,000/. The Court will decide if only jail time is sufficient or if a fine needs to be paid as well.

The punishment for employing an adolescent in any illegal occupation, is imprisonment for a period between six months and two years and/or fine between Rs. 20,000/ and Rs. 50,000/ and imprisonment between one to three years, if a person continues with child labour after having been punished once.

The parents who force their children to work in family businesses or as child artists (without letting them go to school) or any prohibited occupations under the law can be punished for the first time with a warning. But if the child is made to work again illegally then they can be punished with a fine of up to Rs 10,000/.

Assault of a child by a person who is in charge of or control of that child is an offence under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

Responsibility of an employer hiring a child for work

The employer has to maintain a register having the details of the adolescent such as name and date of birth, hours and periods of work of the adolescent, intervals of rest and nature of work performed by any such adolescent.

The employer must ensure that the child or adolescent is provided with the highest standards of safety and care. They should ensure that proper Working Hours and Days and Health and Safety measures such as a safe, clean and hygienic environment. The facilities such as drinking water, latrines, urinals, protective gear for eyes and body, etc. are provided. Proper instructions should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machines and training and supervision should be given to adolescents for handling dangerous machinery.

The employer has to send a notice to the Inspector, whose duty is to ensure there is no illegal employment and that the permitted employment of adolescents is done as per the law. Within 30 days of hiring the adolescent, the employer has to send a notice with the name and location of the establishment, name of the employer, nature of the employment and the work done by the establishment to the Inspector.

The employers who do not fulfil these stipulations under the law will be liable for punishment. The punishment is imprisonment for a maximum period of a month or a fine of maximum Rs. 10,000/ or both.

Filing a complaint against child labour

Child line: Anyone, including the children themselves, can call and give information on child labour on Telephone Helpline No 1098.

Anyone calling the helpline must give details such as name, age, description and address where the child is working etc of the illegally employed children to the Child Helpline. The information thus provided will be forwarded to the ground staff at the district where the child is. The ground staff will make an inquiry with the help of Labour Department, Police, Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and NGOs, and will take appropriate action to stop such illegal labour.

Police: One quick on-ground solution is to file a complaint to the police or calling 100. Anyone reporting any child labour to the police must give as much information as possible about it.

Child Right Commission: Every state has a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Anyone can inform the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights of the state about the child. The commission will inquire into such violation and take appropriate measures.

Department of Labour: The Department of Labour is another agency which can handle any complaint on child labour.

PENCIL Portal: One can file an online complaint on the PENCIL Portal, maintained by the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The portal requires description of the child, state, and district where the child is being employed and the details of informant such as name, mobile number and email ID.

Summing up

It is illegal to employ or allow any children under the age of 14 in any form of occupation except as a child artist, or in a family business and to engage an adolescent between age 14 and 18, in any hazardous work prohibited by law.